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Joshua Thomas
Aidan Guile is knocked from his perch in the dunking booth during Sunday's benefit for Dennis Abare, Jr.

Joshua Thomas
During Sunday's benefit, from left, are Allysa Baldwin, Emily Munson, Sierra Smith and Michelle Cavanaugh.

Joshua Thomas
Richie Paddon and Carolynn Reinhart take turns trying to pop balloons with darts.

Joshua Thomas
Michelle Cavanaugh lifts her son, Thomas, up to hit the bullseye on the dunking booth.


Benefit for Dennis Abare, Jr. brings in funds for his continued care

Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - Updated: 9:12 AM


C-S-E Editor

NELLISTON - On Sunday afternoon, a benefit was held to raise money for the ongoing care of 8-year-old Fort Plain fire victim Dennis Abare, Jr., who was burned on over 40 percent of his body during a July 30, afternoon blaze at 63 Center St.

The event, hosted by the Canajoharie/Fort Plain Elks Lodge #2621 featured food, a live raffle, a Chinese auction, and a variety of games and activities for children, some of them fire prevention-focused. The Fort Plain Fire Department presented a fire safety demonstration, and a victim impact speaker talked about fire-related dangers.

With expenses adding up fast, including travel to SUNY Upstate Medical Center where Abare, Jr. is being treated, the need was immediate, and as a result, Jennifer Passage and Kalley Lee "have been getting up at 7 a.m. and staying up until 2 a.m." each day planning the benefit, which they decided to organize the same day the fire struck.

"Lots of talking, lots of planning, lots of networking," went into the organization process, Lee noted.

A group of about 20 volunteers solicited for raffle items, collecting about 70, which were spread out across the Elks' banquet room Sunday. There were also live raffle items, including a flower-decorated cake by Momma K's Cakes, along with a successful bake sale.

Dennis Abare, Jr.'s parents, Dennis Sr. and Lisa were present, visibly touched by the show of support for their son. "I want to say 'thank you' for all the support we've been given," said Abare, Sr., who said that the community's encouragement has been instrumental in Abare, Jr.'s recovery.

"He's pretty happy about it," said Abare, Sr., of the benefit, continuing, "he wanted to be here."

He noted that Abare, Jr., who was supposed to watch the benefit via Skype, but spent most of the day sleeping following a second skin graft surgery Thursday, will be filled in about the day's events.

Abare, Sr., said that Dennis' skin graft surgery went well, and he's been moved from the ICU to an 11th floor, children's unit room.

Since the fire, Abare's mother, Lisa, has been at the hospital constantly with her son, while his father, Dennis Abare, Sr., is starting to use his hands again after they were burned during his son's extraction from the blaze. On Sunday, he noted that his hands are still red and cracked in spots, but are mostly healed.

Abare, Sr. saved his son from the fire, which burned down the 63 Center St. garage and significantly damaged the homes on either side. "I would've done it for anybody," said Abare, Sr., who said he was on his way across the street when he realized his son was trapped in the burning structure.

His oldest daughter screamed and he came running.

At first, he said he tried to enter the garage through the door, and could see that Dennis' "legs were already on fire." He was forced to break into the garage, explaining that with all the flames and smoke, "it was hard to find him."

"He let out a little whimper and that's how I found him in there."

Despite his traumatic experience, Abare, Sr., said his son "is doing pretty good. He's in very high spirits."

"He's fighting," Abare, Sr., said, noting that the community's support, which has included many people sending him cards and get-well wishes, helps to "keep his mind off things."

"He's a little boy who is really resilient," Lee said about Abare, explaining that he's a tough, bike-riding little guy who she's sure will make the best of his situation. She said, "even if he's in a wheelchair, it'll be an extension of who he is."

Though Lee said he's "lonely, and of course wants to get out and enjoy his summer," cards and letters have been uplifting. Abare is currently fascinated by all things Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

At home in Fort Plain, Abare, Sr. is focused on fixing up the family's Center St. home -- which includes building handicapped ramps -- for his son's return, which, according to Lee, might still be a significant amount of time down the road, as he may be required to remain in the hospital for a month and a half. Following his release, he may be moved from the hospital directly to a rehabilitation facility.

"We really appreciate the community coming together like they have," said Abare, Sr.

Joshua Thomas - Hundreds attended Sunday's benefit for Dennis Abare, Jr., held at the Canajoharie/Fort Plain Elks Lodge #2621.

Joshua Thomas - A live auction item: a floral cake by Momma K's Cakes.

Joshua Thomas - An attendee of Sunday's benefit for Dennis Abare, Jr. bids on a live auction item.


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